I’ve been meaning to share a bit about this design since the autumn 2021 issue of Amirisu came out in November! The issue’s theme is knitwear inspired by films, and I found the process of coming up with a design for this one super interesting, so I thought I’d share both my new design today as well as a bit about the film that inspired it. (I did briefly share a few thoughts over on the Amirisu blog back in November, but I’ll go into a bit more depth here.)
Kitchen Stories is a Norwegian/Swedish co-production directed by Bent Hamer (original title Salmer fra kjøkkenet, literally “psalms from the kitchen,” and occasionally you’ll find it with that title in English). The cardigan I designed shares its name with the film, but before I go into too much detail I’m going to take you back to the beginning of the process, when the original brief for the issue came through.
Normally when it’s time for a call for submissions, Amirisu (or any magazine, for that matter) has a theme in mind and they put together a visual mood board to steer you in the direction they want to go. This time, however, the call specified that they were looking for knitwear inspired by our favorite movies, and there was no mood board. I love films, so I loved this brief, but I also found it a unique challenge. With no visual mood board for the issue there were so many directions that designs could go in – likewise with the whole world of movies at my disposal. I feel like my taste in films can be a little eclectic, and the three movies I was able to narrow it down to probably showcase that – they were Kitchen Stories (a quiet and slightly absurd comedy from 2003 set in post-war Norway), Breathless (or À bout de souffle, Godard’s early French New Wave 1960 directorial debut), and My Neighbor Totoro (the 1988 animated Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli film about a friendly forest spirit, to grossly oversimplify).
I put together my own mood board with stills and images from the films to help me start to brainstorm ideas. If I went for My Neighbor Totoro, the visual connection to the film could either be very literal (and thus, cartoony) or slightly more abstract, drawing on the themes of nature and environmentalism – not unlike the other pieces I’ve already designed for Amirisu. If I went for Breathless, which was shot in black and white on location in Paris, stripes seemed to be the overwhelming visual. Classic, but a bit anonymous as well. In the end it’s not a huge surprise I went for Kitchen Stories; the Norwegian setting definitely aligns with my style as a designer, and the film itself has an incredibly strong visual identity.
Kitchen Stories is set in rural Norway in the post-WWII period. Isak, a lone farmer, has signed up to participate in a study being carried out by the Swedish Home Research Institute investigating the kitchen habits of Norwegian bachelors. He regrets this decision and once Swedish researcher Folke shows up, Isak uses his kitchen very reluctantly. Director Bent Hamer was inspired by some of the studies the actual Hemmens forskningsinstitut carried out on housewives during this period, but the addition of Norwegian bachelors gives the film its slightly absurdist twist. At the film’s opening we watch a brigade of Swedish researchers drive their cars and trailers – which the researchers will reside in during the study – across the border to meet the Norwegian participants on the other side.
The trailers are all the same shade of minty blue-green, and this color theme continues throughout the film, as Isak’s kitchen walls are also a dusty blue-green color. Given that it’s one of my favorite color families (I’ve even recently painted my craft room a minty blue-green shade), the color palette for the design was clear from the start.
While the film itself doesn’t necessarily feature stranded knitting, this mid-century period was definitely a heyday for traditional Norwegian kofter, or colorwork cardigans, so I opted to draw from that tradition for the design. It’s definitely a modern take on the garment, though, between the soft pastel color palette (whereas black and white would be more traditional) and the light weight of the yarn and the finished cardigan – in this period kofter tended to be made with thicker yarn knit at a very tight gauge. They were heavy and quite weatherproof, and could essentially be used as outerwear. My Kitchen Stories cardigan is knit with Biches et Bûches Le Petit Lambswool, a woolen spun light fingering weight yarn, knit at a gauge of 26 stitches per 4″ / 10 cm, making it quite appropriate for our well-insulated and well-heated modern interiors.
The construction is relatively traditional, but with some small differences in technique to suit modern preferences when it comes to working steeks and cutting knitting. The body is worked in the round from the bottom up, with a steek for the front opening, steeks for each armhole, and front neck steek to create the curved neckline. The shoulders are seamed and the steeks are cut open before stitches are picked up around the armhole to work the sleeves top down. The neckband is picked up and knit back and forth, and finally the button bands are picked up from the front edges and worked back and forth. It’s a rewarding if somewhat labor intensive process, and I’m so pleased with the final cardigan. The motif I used came from Anne Bårdsgård’s Selbu Patterns (Selbumønster in the original Norwegian) and it’s one I’ve wanted to use since I first laid eyes on it, with its combination of geometric elements (like the strong diagonals) and organic ones (like the little pine bough motifs bring to mind both foliage but also frost patterns on a window).
The whole issue is a beautiful one (you can see the rest of the patterns on Ravelry here), and one of the things I looked forward to prior to its release was learning which films the other designers used as their source of inspiration. I loved finding out that My Neighbor Totoro made it into the issue after all, with Sari Nordland’s Satsuki (Rav link), a subtle but clever interpretation of the pattern on Totoro’s belly using minimalist cables. I was also happy to see the French New Wave represented as well, with Orlane Sucche’s Cléo (Rav link) inspired by Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7. I’m so grateful that I got to be part of this issue.